FOR the second consecutive year the lack of fully qualified referees has cost the Grafton Vikings basketball team a place in the State League competition.
Former Viking and current manager of the Grafton Indoor Sports and Community Centre, Dylan Parbery, said it was a tragedy for the sport the Vikings were no longer competing at State League level.
"Grafton has been there pretty much from the beginning," he said. "Only four or five years ago we won the competition."
Parbery said the biggest problem was losing players to rival teams.
"We had five players go down to trial with Bellingen when they put a team into the State League and three of them - Simon Mackey, Sam Wicks and Dylan Ben
eke - are going to play with them," he said.
"They would be the nuc
leus of a pretty competitive team for us in the league.
"They will have to be super keen travelling down there once a week for training as well as the extensive travelling around to Newcastle and Tamworth for games."
Parbery is confident the Vikings will be back next year even though the refereeing situation was still parlous.
"We've got about 10 players who will be playing together this season," he said. "There's a carnival coming up in Yamba soon and they'll be travelling to the Gold Coast for a couple of carnivals, so we're keeping the team together."
Parbery said the Vikings were working on the referee situation.
"It's a matter of getting the referees coming up through the juniors and gaining the qualifications and experience they need," he said. "It's not something you can fix quickly.
"We can't just organise a referee's seminar, because we wouldn't be able to get the numbers.
"We'd have to work with Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Bellingen to get enough people there."
He said it was vital for the Vikings to suit up again in the State League.
"We have the men's, women's and junior competition plus a great venue with the Cage, it's just the refereeing situation holding us back.
"I'm confident we'll have it sorted by the time we next apply."